It’s all about pills around the Lick house these days. Annie thinks they’re treats. Don’t tell her any different.
Post knee surgery, the dog came home from the veterinary hospital with six different medications to be administered at varying intervals and frequencies. She had antibiotics, pills for pain, pills for inflammation, and pills for sedation. So many pills I needed a spreadsheet to keep them straight.
Some of Annie’s meds are chewable. Rimadyl, $90-plus a bottle, she gobbles down. Phycox chewies, which look like the old Rolo chocolate-caramel candies but smell like dirty socks, she snatches out of my hand. But most of her prescriptions are tablets or capsules.
Getting pills into a dog is not easy. It’s not like you can ask them to pop them in their mouth, swallow and chase them with a glass of water. No way. People say: Hide them in their food, coat them with peanut butter, bury them in cheese, chicken, or hot dogs. Maybe that works with their dogs, but not Annie. My dog can find the pill in any sort of disguise and spit it out, especially the capsules, which she can’t chew. It’s especially fun when she breaks the capsule open and scatters white drug powder everywhere.
You can buy a “pill shooter” to launch the medicine into the pup’s mouth, but aiming it into the mouth of a moving dog is a challenge. There’s also the method where two people hold the dog down and you force the pill deep into their throats, holding their mouth closed until they swallow. It works, but it’s not a good way to stay friends with your best friend. Also, there are no other people here.
Enter pill pockets. God bless the genius who invented them. What’s a pill pocket, you say. It’s like a circle of cookie dough with a hole in it for the pill. You insert the pill, smoosh the dough around it and offer it to the dog. She swallows it whole and looks for another one. Cephalexin, check. Tramadol, check. Trazadone, check. See you when you wake up.
Now how come dogs get to eat cookie dough and we don’t?
Never mind. I have purchased pill pockets in chicken, hickory, and peanut butter flavors at the Mini Pet Mart. None of the other local stores carry them. Walmart has an off-brand variety that Annie immediately rejected. I couldn’t blame her. Those pockets were hard and nasty. But at $12 for a bag of 30 and using an average of eight a day, we have gone through an awful lot of pockets, money, and trips to the pet store. For what looks like cookie dough.
Enough. I found a recipe online to make my own. All it takes is milk, flour and creamy peanut butter (the kind without xylitol). I wouldn’t get those perfectly formed circles like the store-bought ones, which list several more ingredients (rehydrated chicken, xanthan gum, “natural” flavors?), but maybe it would work. If Annie rejected them, I could eat them.
On Saturday, I made the homemade pockets. Easy enough, although I don’t see how they expect one to get 12 pockets out of one tablespoon each of milk and peanut butter, mixed with two tablespoons of flour. I got three. I put holes in them, added a pain pill and offered one to the dog.
She rolled it around the floor a while, then took it in her mouth with an expression of distaste on her doggy face like I had never seen before. Sheer horror. After she choked it down, I tried a bite. Oh. I apologized to the dog and offered her a meatball dog treat. Maybe we need a different recipe, something with butter and sugar. Meanwhile back to the pet store.
Until recently, I have always taken my own pills straight. Put in mouth, swallow, wash down with water, done. Most of the time. I have never been good with pills. I gag. I cough them up. I look at the big ones and wonder how I’m going to swallow them. Deep breath. Down the hatch. But not long ago, I bought a bottle of calcium gummies, orange and raspberry-flavored 500 mg. wonders that I actually enjoy. They’re loaded with sugar, and I question whether they’re as effective as the regular calcium pills, but they’re delicious. Like the dog, I always want another one.
They didn’t have gummies when I was a kid. I enjoyed the orange-flavored children’s aspirin Mom gave us. But the pills, ugh. We always got one of Mom’s homemade cookies after taking our medicine. How great it would it have been if she had put the pills in the cookies and all we tasted was cookie. But it took dog people to think of that.
With luck, Annie will soon be back to one arthritis chewy a day, and I can recycle the spreadsheets and empty pill bottles. At what used to be pill time, she’ll hound me for those delicious doughy treats.
What is your go-to pilling-the-pet process? Want to come over and make pill pockets?
Here are some sites that offer advice on medicating the pooch.
I’ve gotta get me some friends, and not just Facebook friends, although I appreciate every one of you. I need some “bury the body”* friends, preferably young ones with strong backs.
County commissioner and sister writer Claire Hall shared that saying with me at a party on Saturday. A “bury the body” friend is one whom you can call at 3 a.m. to help you dispose of a corpse and they say, “I’ll be right there.” They don’t ask why you have a body to bury. They don’t say, “Are you crazy? It’s the middle of the night.” They just show up. With a shovel. That kind of friend.
I don’t expect to bury any bodies (okay, I did bury a dead rabbit a while back), but I do see the need for a bury-the-body friend. As a widowed, childless woman getting older by the second, I have been reading this book, Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers by Sara Zeff Geber. It’s extremely well done, and it scares the bejeebers out of me.
Geber’s main message is that we need to get our act together while we can. Even if we have spouses and kids, we need to make arrangements for our older years and our death. Our spouses may die. Our children may or may not jump in to help. And if we have neither, we’d better figure out who is going to handle such things as paying our bills, making medical decisions, making sure the dog gets fed, helping us to transition (God forbid) to a nursing home, or deciding what to do with our bodies when we die. Cheery stuff like that.
If we don’t have all our paperwork in order and haven’t chosen people to take care of things, either things will not be taken care of, or the job will be given to folks who don’t know us well enough to know what we would want.
So we need friends. Let me stress that I do have friends, wonderful friends, but most of them are older than I am. No, no, no, says Geber, you need to cultivate younger friends. Cozy up to them until you trust each other enough to put their names on your advanced directive. I’m not good at cozying. I hate networking. I’m uncomfortable at parties unless I’m playing with the band. Take a class, volunteer, join a club, says Geber, but I’m already plenty busy, and where I live, most of the people doing these things are seniors like me. Should I move?
How do all the people on TV sitcoms hook up with friends who are always together, always in one another’s homes, always there in a crisis? Does that really happen?
I’m working on ways to connect with friends under 65. I’m open to invitations and thinking of making some of my own, even though I’m an introvert who is much more comfortable at the computer.
How about you? Do you have a bury-the-body friend? If you don’t, do you worry about it? If you do have such a friend, how did you connect and how do you keep the friendship going?
Here’s another question: With young people so tied to their electronic devices, will they find themselves without lifelong bury-the-body friends in old age?
* I’m still trying to locate the original source of the “bury-the-body” saying, which has developed many variations, including that a real friend will show you the good spots for burying and that a real friend will assume that if you killed somebody they deserved killing.
** If you remember last week’s post, Annie the dog had knee surgery on Aug. 16. We were almost done with the worst of her recovery when her inflatable collar deflated early Saturday morning. I woke up to a limp collar and the dog licking her incision. She kept licking it, reopening the wound and making for a tense weekend. I bought a new collar that proved too big. She got it off and went back to licking. This morning, which was supposed to be the day for removing Annie’s sutures, the vet sentenced us to an extra week of the collar, the pills, and the inability for me to leave the dog for any longer than necessary. Back to the Mini Pet Mart. I bought a new collar that even escape artist Houdini could not get out of. We’re both going stir-crazy. Grr.
Photo Copyright: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo
Monday, 6 a.m.
I awaken for the umpteenth time and listen for the dog. I hear her shaking her head. Along with the big blue donut around her neck that’s driving her crazy, she has an ear infection, so neither one of us can sleep. Does she need to go potty? Is she licking her incision? Is she choking on the bandage she ate last night? If she’s quiet, is she asleep or is she dead?
Seven more days. I’m not sure either one of us will survive. Annie had her second knee surgery on Thursday in Springfield, Oregon, a two-hour drive away. They don’t do this complicated bionic procedure on big dogs here in Newport. Oregon Veterinary Referral Associates is very nice, full of kind, talented people. If only they weren’t so far away. If only the air weren’t full of smoke from the various wildfires. If only it wasn’t 90 degrees out and the air conditioner on my Honda “Toaster” Element wasn’t broken. If only Annie hadn’t torn her left ACL a year and a month after she tore the ACL on her other leg.
The surgery went well, they say. After three days, Annie is beginning to put some weight on the leg. Just now when I finally got up to stay up, I found her on the easy chair in the den. “How did you do that?” I asked. She didn’t say. The leg must have worked well enough to get her up there. By the expression on her face, she doesn’t know how she’s going to get down.
I’m afraid to look at her incision. The first night, she got to it in spite of the donut, and removed several of her stitches. I mopped up a little blood and applied a bandage. I rejiggered the donut, and she doesn’t seem to be able to reach the remaining stitches. Except for church, when the neighbor doggie-sat, I have been with her constantly. Once in a while, we go for a short walk. She scoots along on three legs faster than I can walk, stopping to sniff here and there and to water the grass. Mostly we’ve been sitting on the floor. I pet her belly while reading, writing, watching videos on my tablet, or just contemplating the shocking fact that under her fur, my dog has fat thighs like me.
Last night, since I was right there, I took off the troublesome donut. She stretched out, rubbed her head on the rug in ecstasy and went to sleep. For hours. I couldn’t bear to wake her. I slipped into the other room to watch TV, checking on her at the commercials. Sleeping, sleeping . . . No! I caught her sitting up, licking her incision, bandage gone, shit-eating grin on her face.
I put the collar back on and gave her more of her six different medications while praying to God that she will be able to digest and excrete the big bandage, just as she has passed and excreted all manner of other things, including parts of a nylon collar, rubber toys, and wood. Please don’t let her need emergency surgery to remove the stupid bandage which her stupid mom left unattended and which her stupid mom absolutely cannot afford.
I contemplated a future without her. No. Please God, save us from our own stupidity.
I have told Annie that she has to live until I pay off this surgery. At least. Aside from the bandage making its way through her digestive tract, she’s healing well. Her incision looks fine. Her appetite is good, and she seems relatively happy. Except that the donut is driving her nuts because she can’t scratch her itchy ear, lick her stitches, or lick her bottom. I’m hoping the drugs help.
During my off-and-on sleep, I had wild dreams. A dog got hit by a car. My hair turned into this big bushy thing that got bigger the more I tried to control it. I won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. That was a nice one. But I’m as sleepy now as I was when I went to bed at 9:45 last night. Welcome to another doggy day.
If you have read my 2011 book Shoes Full of Sand, all of this may sound familiar. We went through two knee surgeries with Sadie, Annie’s predecessor. But Fred was here to help. They did the surgeries at our local vet’s office. Plus I was so much younger then.
On the good side, Annie’s a wonderful snuggler, and we communicate without words. I walk toward the door, suggesting she goes out. She stays put and licks her lips. No. I want to eat. I give her a pill in a chicken-flavored pill pocket, which she thinks is a treat. (God bless the people who invented pill pockets.) She interrupts my work to nose my sweatshirt and my shoes to tell me it’s time for a walk. I get up. She has me well-trained. Except that now she’s telling me she wants the donut gone. Not happening.
The car goes to the shop tomorrow for a whole day of repairs. $1,400. Turns out the air conditioner wasn’t all that was broken on the trusty toaster, which has covered a lot of miles this year.
God willing, we will survive this, but it’s going to be a long, long week.
Every afternoon, an hour or so after the dog starts picketing my office, sighing in the doorway and nudging my hand off the computer mouse, I put on my walking shoes. It drives her crazy how long I take getting ready. I’ve got to put on the shoes and sweatshirt, find my glasses, lock the doors, get my keys, my phone, my handkerchief, two poop bags, and her leash. Hesitate. Do I have it all? Have I left something plugged in or turned on? By then, she’s howling at me and jumping up and down. I hook on her leash. She grabs it, shakes it as if to kill it, and runs to the door. Extending the anguish, I insist she sit and chill for a minute. Then . . . okay, let’s go!
We walk on paved and graveled roads and grassy trails through the woods here in South Beach. Sun, rain or snow, we go. It’s hard on the feet, hard on the shoes. I have just worn out another pair. In gratitude, I wrote this poem.
ODE TO SHOES
Drying on the hearth, these twenty-dollar
boots from Big 5 Sporting Goods
have holes among the waffle treads
that let my socks get wet.
The rubber toes are falling off.
Worn brown laces won’t stay tied.
They sacrificed themselves to guard
my tender white and helpless feet.
My puppy has her leather pads,
soft fur thick between the toes,
nails that grip the graveled earth.
Puzzled, she watches me grab my shoes
to walk through rocks and branches, mud,
newts and salamander guts
Oh, praise these battered hiking boots.
We’ve got a couple miles left.
Text and photos copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2017
My dryer buzzes a Bb. My oven timer sings out a high D and the microwave offers a B above middle C. The doorbell ding-dongs a pleasant F down to D, but the tea kettle, old and weary, starts at F# and tends to go flat. My house is very musical. I’ll bet yours is, too.
I’m a little nuts, but as a musician, I can’t help checking out the pitch of things I hear. I ping the crystal glass with my fingernail and find myself humming and running to the piano. What is it?!! I have pretty good relative pitch, so I am usually close, but I’m not sure until I check. It’s the D next to middle C, very pleasant. I try my ordinary water glass: A, not bad. I check the seat belt warning beeper in my car: C above middle C, very annoying. The Honda horn: a blatty G#.
I’m on a roll. Why write when you can Google stuff? It turns out there’s a science behind the sounds our possessions make. Sound engineers actually work hard to find the right sounds for the right purpose. Higher pitched sounds are more unpleasant and therefore get our attention. They’re used for alerts and alarms. A low-pitched siren would not have the same effect and might not cut through the other noises in our lives. Lower-pitched sounds are more pleasant and are used for notifications, things we want to know, but it’s not a matter of life or death.
Sound designers look for sounds that will get our attention as needed. If the house is on fire, you don’t want a low A hum. You want a shrieking high G# that will wake you up. The typical bing-bong doorbell is a pleasant interruption. But think if the notes were changed to something minor or clashing.
I have noticed that, with the exception of my tea kettle, everything is right on pitch. This is quite amazing. picture some poor guy trying to tune an over or a dryer. No, that’s not it. Beep. Not quite. Beep. Almost. Beep! Damn, now it’s sharp.
Maybe you’re not a musician. Maybe you’re not obsessed with determining the pitch of everything you hear. Maybe you agree with the yoga sound healers online who say that if you have to know what pitch the sounds are, you’re not going with the flow. They’re probably right. I can see me jumping out of my full lotus in the middle of a session to look for a musical instrument or use the pitch pipe on my phone. It’s a Bb! Okay, we can continue.
Sound healing is a real thing. You can buy bowls, bells, and gongs that are said to affect the different chakras—energy centers along your spine. Just close your eyes and feel the vibrations. Don’t ask what note it is. It’s actually very pleasant. You can read up on sound healing at http://www.dreamweaving.com/dwalsg.htm or https://www.devpreetkaur.com/sound-healing-instruments.
But back to the sounds in our houses. Pitches are sound-wave frequencies, measured in Hertz (Hz) and Kilohertz (kHz). The human ear with normal hearing is capable of detecting sound waves from approximately 20Hz to 20,000 Hz (20 kHz). One to three kHz is said to be the sweet spot where human hearing is most sensitive.
Up until the 1950s, manufacturers didn’t have the same options for sounds that we have in our computer-operated world. Think tiny hammers hitting tiny bells in a telephone. Today’s computer-powered cell phone ring tones can be virtually anything from an old-time bell to your favorite song.
Did you know you can listen to common sounds online and even download them to use on your website, movie, or recording? You can get buzzers and beeps, a duck quacking, a dog lapping water, or the noise of a busy restaurant. Visit www.freesoundeffects.com or https://www.soundsnap.com. You can buy sounds at 123rf, the same site where I often download pictures for this blog. At YouTube, search for “common sounds” and go crazy. You might want to wear ear buds or headphones for these; they’re not very loud.
I tried to figure out what pitch Annie speaks in. We had a long song session. She was trying to tell me to leave the computer alone and take her for a walk. She started with very low sounds, but as I tried to match her tones, soon we were all over the sound spectrum. That dog has a huge range compared to my tiny human one. Having won the sing-off, she dragged me down the street for a while, where we enjoyed the whoosh of the wind, the chirp of the birds, and the bark of the neighbors’ dogs.
You might wonder if I have more important things to do. Nope. I do the research so you don’t have to. What are you hearing at your house?
Text copyright 2017 Sue Fagalde Lick, photo copyright: jerryb7 / 123RF Stock Photo
It was like God flipped a switch. Overnight this sunny beach town turned into the soggy Oregon coast, complete with hard rain, wind, and thunder. Note dog under the desk. Summer was so good it’s hard to be easygoing about losing it. I did not want to stash the lounge cushions or strap down the hot tub cover. I did not want to stock up on pellets for the pellet stove. I did not want to wake up to darkness and spend my day in storm-cloud gloom.
Tough, says God. Lots of people have it much worse these days, with earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. And didn’t I pray hard for rain to put the fires out? Yes, I did. I even cleaned out my gutters and stacked my wood in preparation. Before you know it, I’ll be making soup.
But I’ve already got two pairs of soggy shoes and two pairs of soggy socks and one pair of soggy jeans hanging up to dry from our recent rainy walks. Annie, my canine personal trainer, does not cut me any slack for rainy days. Yesterday’s trek through the woods may have been our longest speed walk since her knee surgery at the end of May. That dog was truckin’. The rain soaking into her fur didn’t seem to bother her. Me, I could have done without it.
I wore one of Fred’s old hats, his old rain jacket (I wore mine out), and my own jeans and tennies. The rain soaked into the hat and cascaded down the jacket onto my pants. It leaked into my shoes. I shivered now and then, even though it was still 60 degrees. Wait till December when we go below freezing.
My hat knocking against my raincoat made a noise that convinced me a bear was watching us. No. Bears are smart enough to stay in when it rains. We saw the usual collection of dead newts, squashed mice, and discarded fast-food containers. The blackberries are gone, and the first mushrooms have sprouted up. The neighbors’ RV is wrapped up in a silver tarp, vacation time over. The yellow school bus rolled by us, depositing its last passenger on Birch Street. School is in session. We have started religious education at church. I have traded sandals for boots. My online piano lesson featured the song “Autumn Leaves.”
The calendar says it’s the first day of autumn. But who cares what the calendar says? We need only watch the sky. These days, it keeps changing. When I woke up this morning, we had blue sky. Now it’s all clouds. Yesterday, before the sky turned black and it rained, I saw bright pink clouds above the trees. “Annie, look!” I said. She was too busy staring at her empty bowl to appreciate the sunrise. Nor was she interested at lunchtime when at least five different kinds of birds congregated in the back yard. Stellar’s jays, robins, flickers, juncos, and sparrows. The birds are getting ready for winter.
Grab your raincoat. Here we go.
The ebook version of The Best of Unleashed in Oregon is online now at Amazon.com. Only $2.99. Grab yourself a copy. If you prefer a paperback, that’s in the works. It should be available next week at the same place.